Yael T. Abouhalkah

Glory be: Sam Brownback and Kansas schools get great news about higher February revenues

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback spoke to students at Rushton Elementary School in Mission in early 2012.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback spoke to students at Rushton Elementary School in Mission in early 2012. The Kansas City Star

February was a good month for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and, by extension, for the K-12 public schools and universities in the state.

Revenues for the month beat expectations by $22.1 million, Department of Revenue officials announced Friday.

That was far better than the $47 million revenue shortfall in January.

Just days later, Brownback slashed funding to K-12 schools and higher education by $44.5 million in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

So the February news means education officials should be able to breathe a sigh of relief and not worry, at least for another month, about further budget cutbacks.

Brownback’s unilateral action in early February had forced schools to start scrambling to find ways to save money. Brownback and his allies said the schools should start spending down some of their reserve funds.

Schools said they needed that money for other expenses during the year. In fact, the reserve figures used by Brownback were dated July 1, 2014. Many schools already had used up some or much of those reserves as of early February.

Worse, as has become clear during the revenue shortfalls, Brownback continues to blame other factors than the income tax cuts he forced through in 2012.

At one point in February, Brownback basically lied to Kansans, claiming lower-than-expected sales tax revenues were to blame for the state shortfall that had caused him to slice funding to schools and higher education.

As noted at the time, however, sales tax revenue for the year is actually up. It is — as expected — income tax receipts that are way down.

On Friday, state officials also acknowledged that — even after the slight bump in receipts in February — total revenues are down when compared to estimates for this year and for actual revenues of the prior fiscal year.

At some point the Legislature and the governor are going to have to face facts. They need to restore some or all of the income taxes that once produced enough money to give Kansans high quality schools.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.

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